last major stronghold of the extremists who call themselves islamic state, is entering its final phase. the current offensive by arab and kurdish fighters, with american and british support, started in june. just a few hundred is fighters are left now holding the centre of the city. king salman of saudi arabia has issued a decree allowing women to drive for the first time. the order is due to come into force next june, following years of campaigning. saudi arabia has been the only country in the world that does not permit women to drive. president trump has been dealt a major blow after his choice to contest a vacant senate seat for the republicans in alabama lost the primary runoff vote. luther strange was beaten by roy moore, a hard—line christian conservative, and ally of former white house chief strategist steve bannon. now on bbc news, it is hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk, i'm sarah montague.
president trump has accused pakistan of housing the very terrorists that the united states is fighting, but he says that will have to change, and change immediately. he questioned why the united states is giving pakistan billions in aid and military support. it is an argument that has been made before. but now, other countries are also pointing to what they see as pakistan's seeming double—speak on terrorism. even china has signed a declaration including pakistan—based groups on a terror list. my guest today is pakistan's foreign minister, khawaja asif. are they at risk of losing all their allies because of their inability or unwillingness to control militants? khawaja asif, welcome to hardtalk.
thank you. how do you respond to that challenge from president trump that pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror? well, we have given a statement in response of what president trump said three weeks back. and let me explain that again. our talibans have almost 40% to 45% territory. kabul has no control
on that territory. why would they need safe havens in pakistan, when they have their own territory, where they can move freely, without any hindrance, without any problem 7 so this is basically — you know, this is scapegoating pakistan for whatever has happened in afghanistan over the last 1.5 decades. at the peak, there were more than 100,000 american soldiers who were there, of the combined isaf forces. they have not achieved anything. they have lost territory. they have not really achieved what they wanted to achieve in afghanistan. now, scapegoating pakistan is easy. but the fact remains that they are fighting a battle which is not about to finish in the near future. they are talking of a surge
by 4,000, or 5,000, or 6,000, whatever. that will not make any difference. we propose that there should be a political approach and a political solution to this problem, not merely a military solution. the military solution has already failed. the military approach over the last... so, when president trump talks about, first of all, the billions and billions of dollars that the united states is paying pakistan... that is absolutely wrong, that is absolutely wrong... and he also says no partnership can survive a country's harbouring militants and terrorists who target us service members and officials. he isjust wrong, is he? yeah, he is absolutely wrong, absolutely wrong. i told you, they are scapegoating pakistan for their failures, number one. number two — talking of this billions,
let's sit down with the americans and sort this out. you know, for almost 1.5 decades, our roads, our infrastructure, our airspace have been used by american forces, free of cost. we have suffered over $100 billion of losses, economic losses. 60,000 casualties... because the figures on the money that the united states has given pakistan is that, over 15 years, the total is $us33 billion us. they actually reimbursed the expense, which is audited, and most of the time it is not paid in full. so that is something which is debatable. i think president trump was not shown the whole situation, or the correct situation. but in terms of where terrorists are operating, are you suggesting that pakistan is blameless, as far as afghanistan is concerned? let me explain. we are absolutely sure about it, that whatever is happening in pakistan, that is being orchestrated from foreign soil.
they are safe havens of ttp, which is tehreek—i—taliban pakistan. they operate from there. what happened in the peshawar, in the army public school, it was also orchestrated, it was supervised from foreign soil. so we have the same problem, that we actually provide them the co—ordinates of the people who are operating from there, the location and everything, and nothing has been done. so — forgive me, do you say to the united states, look, we have a terrorist problem because of you, and your loss of control in afghanistan? absolutely, absolutely. they have lost control. they have — they are fighting a losing war. that is why pakistan is having problems. now, we have committed 200,000 soldiers on our western border. we have a traditional enemy on our eastern border,
where we have something like 100,000. 0k, well, we'll. .. so look at the threat we have on our western border, and the quantum of the threat is so big that 200,000 soldiers are fighting the terrorists on our western border. one of the difficulties you have is that people like — there is a belief that perhaps you don't want peace, that it is not in your interests. having supported the taliban in afghanistan, it is not now in your interest for there to be peace, because they help keep, in the words of michael kugelman, who is deputy director of the wilson centre's asian centre projects, he said the taliban help keep pakistan's indian enemy at bay in pakistan. that is absolutely wrong. that is, i think, lack of real knowledge of the situation in pakistan.
we have lost — we used to have some influence on the taliban, and that is why we were suggesting that they should be brought to the table, and there should be negotiation on whatever is happening in afghanistan. but over the years we have lost control or influence on the taliban. other countries in the region, who have perhaps more influence on taliban than us — actually, all the taliban have contact with almost everybody in the region. so we do not have — we do not monopolise this relationship. a former envoy to afghanistan, james dobbins, has said today they view it as a monster they have created, but can't afford to suppress. create — let's talk about creating monsters. most of these monsters which are there our country, in this whole region, were created way back in the ‘80s, by a proxy war which we were
fighting on behalf of americans. this is the legacy of those days. this is the baggage which pakistan and the whole region is carrying, from the war which was fought against soviet union. so let's not talk about... ok, but the difficulty pakistan has here, though, is that it is notjust the united states. we also have a situation where the brics countries, brazil, russia, india, china and south africa, have all signed a declaration which names pakistan—based organisations, like lashkar—e—taiba and jaish—e—mohammad, and says that they — condemns terror attacks, and says those committing, organising or supporting such acts must be held accountable. your information is not complete. if not — i'll not use the word wrong, but your information
is not complete. this statement which came out of brics was signed by pakistan in the last year out of amritsar, the heart of asia conference which took place in amritsar. we signed this statement ourselves, the same statement. so then why did your defence minister say we reject the declaration? you're saying you signed it, but your own defence minister says we reject the declaration at the brics summit? these organisations you have just mentioned, they are proscribed in afghanistan. jaish—e—mohammad and lashkar—e—taiba, they are banned in pakistan. their leadership is in custody. they are under house arrest, or they are detained by the pakistan government. you are not taking enough action against them. and it is something that,
in the wake of that signing of the brics statement, you acknowledged. you said, instead, we should impose some restrictions on the activities of the elements like lashkar—e—taiba and jaish—e—mohammad. they are already proscribed in pakistan. we are tightening the noose around them, there's absolutely no doubt about it. it is debatable that perhaps more actions can be taken against them. the more — but, if somebody is doubting our intent, i think it's absolutely wrong. you say if people doubt our intent — there seem to be an awful lot of people who doubt your intent. is it true, as has been reported in the times, that a senior pakistani government official has said that china has demanded privately that pakistan should attack islamist militants? have china been pressing you privately to do more? no. we have, in the last three to four years, operated against the terrorists from different backgrounds in our tribal areas. there were terrorists over there,
they are called etim, the organisation is called etim. we operated against them. they were operatingin western china. this is the east turkestan independence movement, that were also named in this brics, as was the haqqani network — all pakistan—based organisations. they are no more in our area in the last three years. we have eliminated them. given what we know about what president trump has said in public, are we at a point where there could be, to use the words of some commentators, a divorce between the united states and pakistan? you mean, they asked us to do more, by the americans?
but the threats that have been made by both sides, between the united states, the americans, and pakistan, as to what could happen — that perhaps they stop giving you aid. perhaps, as some pakistanis have threatened, and indeed, pakistan's lower house of parliament voted that pakistan should consider saying you can't cross the territory. the resolution which was passed by the parliament — obviously that was a response to what president trump said. he spoke from fort myer. but, talking of aid to pakistan, we are not receiving any aid from the us, hardly anything. so, if they are not supporting us economically... ok, so if they stop it, you will not miss it. but are we talking about a situation where you will seriously consider saying to the americans you cannot supply your troops in afghanistan via a route through pakistan? that situation has not arisen.
i think that that is a hypothetical, but it has happened in the past. but, at the moment, there is nothing. we are not considering — absolutely not considering that. we want to engage the us, and we want to convince them that there is a political approach available, and they must adopt that approach. the military approach, like i said earlier, has failed. it has failed, and it has measurably failed. so we can co—operate. ok, so when you and your prime minister saw president trump, as you did at the united nations, what was said privately? it was said privately. why are you asking me publicly? because all we know of the public rhetoric is some very angry language that suggests relationships between america and pakistan will be severed. no, i don't think the relationship is injeopardy. we have a difference of opinion, this is true. we have differences on the approach to the afghan problem. afghan peace is as essential to us as anyone else in our region, or the americans.
so we can talk. we have already met vice president pence and our prime minister met briefly the president also, in a reception, and in coming days perhaps there will be a meeting between me and the secretary of state of the us, so there is engagement already there. we are trying to find a common ground whereby our approach, and there is a convergence of our approach and the american approach, to find an afghan solution, and instead of blaming each other for failures or blaming each otherfor something which is not real. one can find a solution. i think we can find a solution. one of the things we know is whilst there is this very angry language between the two sides, and you are saying, look, it's going to be fine, president trump at the same time
is applauding the important contributions to stability in afghanistan by india and asking them to be more involved and this is something that i imagine you wouldn't welcome. you're absolutely right. we do not accept any indian role in afghanistan. that is absolutely correct. i agree with what you are saying. but let me reiterate that politics is not out of politics... ..possible. so we are searching for the possible jointly with the americans. you are right, there are statements from both sides which were bitter and accusatory, but the fact remains that the solution can't be found to this problem without pakistan. but you have already told me that the americans are losing
and will lose the war in afghanistan. you know, what i am saying is that the military solution or military approach did not work. so let's push for the political approach and what has happened in the last 15 years or 1a years is that now the afghan taliban has had more territory under their control than they had 1a or 15 years back, so let's try the political option. you have this... you are having this argument almost with america. at the same time, we are hearing really quite bellicose language between pakistan and india. a pakistan official has said, "if ever our national security is threatened by advancing foreign forces, pakistan will use all of its weapons,
and i mean all of our weapons, to defend our country. " the clear suggestion being that that involves nuclear weapons. you know, if there is a threat to our existence, and if there is aggression which is an existential threat to our country, then obviously we will stake everything on it. nobody should have any doubt about it. but do you think india threatens your existence? yes. they walk into our territory, they capture our territory, and then they leverage their position and then they blackmail us. we should explain, the cold start is an indian strategy which they have acknowledged exists
which would allow them to respond to crises, including attacks by militants from pakistan, but it has been made clear that it wouldn't threaten the survival of pakistan. that is their explanation. you know, over the last now ten months, nine months, in 2017, hundreds of violations... they have violated our line of control, our working boundary. in my own constituency, my own district where i live, last month there were five or six violations. seven women died over there. property was destroyed. so this is not the way... whatever they are saying, it's doublespeak and nothing else. you accuse them of doublespeak, but we're talking about, for example, attacks by... on an indian army base in kashmir,
19 indian soldiers killed, this was last year, india's national investigation agency said lashkar—e—taiba was to blame, the same group they same was to blame for the mumbai attack, in 2008, when so many people were killed. these are the attacks they feel they need to respond to. you know, they accuse us of mumbai or this attack on a military base, but let me tell you, we are demanding from them that they have the accused who masterminded the attack on samjhauta express. they have not done anything on that account, absolutely nothing, but if they have evidence on like the attack on the military base, we can share the evidence
and take action accordingly. they have already given pakistan what they say is proof of that. no, we do not have any conclusive proof of that. that is their version. will we have kulbushanjadhav, a serving naval officer, in our custody. he has spilled the beans. he has been masterminding every terrorist attack in different places, in baluchistan and elsewhere in pakistan. he is a serving naval officer, a commander in the indian navy. we have evidence. we actually have the culprit in our custody. but you have said, because a few months ago you were defence minister, and you said, "we will destroy india if it dares to impose war on us. fall will all fall pakistan army is fully prepared to answer misadventure. we have not made atomic devices
to display and showcase. if such a situation arises, we will use it and eliminate india." do you really stand by that? let me reiterate that if india commits aggression against pakistan and if is there is an existential threat to pakistan, we will retaliate with full might. i repeat the same thing. and if lashkar—e—taiba provokes india into a response, you are then in a situation where you will use nuclear weapons? you know, it's again a hypothetical thing. if they take that excuse and commit aggression against pakistan, then obviously there is a war and in war there's no restraint. war is war. let's apply restraint and let's talk and sort out our disputes through negotiations. but how can you talk when you are making such aggressive language?
we have the former head of m16... we do not hate songs from their side, they speak the same language. the former head of m16, the british secret intelligence service, john sawyers, has said pakistan has developed battlefield nuclear weapons, we're talking about tactical weapons, not strategic ones, as a means to defend itself and we have india declaring it would respond militarily if there was another attack, like the one in mumbai. knowing they would be overwhelmed by indian forces, these weapons are pakistan's way of halting indian forces shortly after they cross the border. it makes it sound like war could be very quickly reached, even by accident. you know, i agree with that. that any likelihood of war should be prevented and the only way to prevent that is we start talking to each other. we create an atmosphere which is conducive to negotiations and sorting out our differences. if, like the foreign minister of india spoke the other day at the un ga, if that sort
of accusatory speech or talk is done on a international forum we have to respond to that. we cannot take it lying down, or if there are threats to our existence and we just wait for the international community to intervene. we have to respond immediately and respond with full might to protect our existence. that is what i said three months back and that is what i am saying today. but to prevent an accident or prevent a situation which can trigger a war between the two nuclear states, we must devise a mechanism.
khawaja asif, thank you for coming on hardtalk. thank you. good morning. yet again, if you had some sunshine yesterday you probably had some warmth, and in fact in the london area we saw highs of 22 degrees, with some sunny spells, as you can see from this weather watches from twickenham. but things are set to change. this low pressure is moving in, bringing wet and windy weather by the end of the day for many of us. we start off with the west—east divide across the country. a bit of patchy mist and fog slowly lifting away,
but the wind will strengthen and cloud and rain gathers. some of it quite heavy in northern ireland by the middle of the afternoon. the best of the weather is likely to stay into the south—east corner and we could have temperatures again into the low 20s. by the end of the afternoon across the south—west of england and parts of wales we'll start to see some rain arriving. east wales, though, you might get a bit of brightness. 17—18 degrees. the heaviest rain into northern ireland where it will feel dismal. not a bad end to the afternoon in much of northern england and eastern scotland. cloud thickening up, the winds strengthening across western fringes of scotland. so that weather front sweeps its way eastwards through the evening and overnight and in actual fact it's moving at quite a pace. there will be some rain, some of it heavy, for all of us at some point through the night, clearing away in all but eastern fringes towards dawn.
with clearer skies and lighter winds we could see some patchy mist and fog forming. more favoured spots for it to linger perhaps through south—west england and wales first thing. but again the further west on thursday you'll see the best of the sunshine. after a cloudy and damp start there is a slow improvement through eastern fringes, but we might keep a bit of cloud across east anglia and the south—east. the highest values, 14—20 degrees. now, as we move out of thursday and into friday, things are set to change. that's partly because of what's happening across north america, with a cold plunge of air coming out of canada, mixing with very warm, moist air in the caribbean, and that's going to strengthen the jet, which will in turn deflect these areas of low pressure across the uk. a spell of wet and windy weather moving into friday is likely, that wull sweep steadily eastwards, behind it a better clearance — brighter weather to come.
14—19 degrees the high. this pattern continues into the weekend. saturday could be a day of sunshine and showers before another significant area of low pressure brings wet and windy weather for sunday. this is bbc news, i'm ben bland. our top stories: the final phase of the battle for raqqa, the last stronghold of so—called islamic state in syria. we have an exclusive report. this is the centre of raqqa, the very heart, if you like, of the islamic state. naim roundabout is about a few hundred metres away from here. locals call it the circle of hell. saudi arabia is set to lift the ban on women driving, but is the country really on the road to equality? a party atmosphere and a strong police presence. russia attempts to strike the right balance ahead of next summer's world cup. keeping the french economy moving.